GATX Capital, a leading US operating lessor, has linked with the SAirGroup leasing division Flightlease to create what is claimed to be the world's third-largest leasing company.

The new company, GATX Flightlease Management, will be jointly owned and based at SAir's head office near Zurich Airport. Flightlease and GATX will transfer their aircraft to the new company, creating a new portfolio of more than 180 aircraft worth around $6 billion, a leasing fleet bettered only by GE Capital Aviation Services and International Lease Finance, says SAir.

GATX says that the joint portfolio will provide a better balance of aircraft and a broader customer base. It brings the critical mass necessary to compete effectively against rival aircraft management companies and to enable it to enjoy improved access to a wider range of financing solutions. The new company will be co-headed initially by Alan Coe, chief executive of GATX Capital, and Flightlease boss Hans-Jorg Hunziker.

"We wanted to enter the third-party operating lease market on a large scale and this venture is a fast- track route to achieving our objectives while optimising still further the risk exposure and balance sheets of the SAirGroup," says Hunziker.

GATX Capital of San Francisco, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chicago-based GATX Capital, has pursued a strategy of forging partnerships with leading banks, manufacturers and other institutions. The company is already involved in three airliner leasing ventures: GATX/CL Air which manages Airbus A320s, GATX A321 Partners, which controls A321-200s, and GATX 737-800 Partners, which has orders for Next Generation Boeing 737s.

Flightlease was established by SAir last year. Its portfolio extends to some 60 aircraft, plus a further 31 on order. The fleet is principally made up of Swissair aircraft.

Source: Flight International